Every day in the showroom, we get tons of questions regarding kitchen lighting—specifically kitchen island pendants.
Questions abound for good reason, since there are literally thousands of pendants to choose from—all in various sizes, shapes, colors, and styles.
Because narrowing down the search can prove incredibly challenging, we've compiled some tips straight from our showroom experts along with their current favorite pendants.
As always, if you have questions about your kitchen lighting, please contact us! Schedule a free one-hour consultation with one of our lighting experts in Waltham to review your kitchen lighting plan.
Pro Tip #1: Keep various lighting needs top of mind.
Are you relying on the pendants for task lighting at the kitchen island? And do you envision using the island as a primary food prep or work space?
If so, a pendant with a downward-pointing shade tends to give the best task lighting by directing light onto the work surface.
Further, a pendant whose shade diffuses or blocks the light source from view ensures a brighter bulb can be used to give you more light without causing glare.
For example, if task lighting is your primary goal, opt for a pendant with a shade made of metal or white or frosted glass rather than a pendant with a shade that is clear glass or has a bare bulb. Your eyes will thank you!
Here are a couple of our favorite pendants for task lighting.
This pendant checks both boxes for good task lighting. One: it has a downward-pointing shade to direct the light where you need it. Two: the shade's white glass makes the bulb's brightness easier on the eyes when you look at the pendant from across the room. And you could use a very bright bulb if you like—this pendant takes up to 100W!
The Fresnel lens diffuser on the bottom of the shade evenly distributes light over your work surface (and hides the bulb for glare control). Plus, the details like the thumbscrews used to fasten the diffuser will add restoration-style flair to your kitchen design.
In some kitchens, island pendants create atmosphere and mood rather than provide task lighting. For instance, perhaps you plan to use your island as a casual eating area rather than for food prep.
Hubbardton's Erlenmeyer Mini Pendant (pictured below) doesn't provide task lighting since the halogen bulb is tucked up inside the metal band in the middle of the pendant. However, the bulb's placement creates a beautifully warm glow that illuminates the pendant's thick blown glass and dapples the island or table with soft rings of light. The Erlenmeyer pendants can be a wonderful centerpiece for an island if task lighting isn't the priority.
Here are a couple more favorite pendants for creating ambiance and visual intrigue:
Nothing says elegance like crystal. We love the classic shape of Schonbek's Bagatelle pendant trimmed by crystal drops. Though they might not shine down onto the work surface, the bulbs inside provide a bounty of ambient light for the room, and when dimmed down, they create an inviting glow.
Crafted from a sphere of pure optic crystal, the Mina pendant is a showstopper. The integrated LED module shines down through the globe, illuminating the etched interior as if by magic. Choose from Satin Nickel, Black, or Aged Brass for the metal finish and from eight different cord colors to personalize the look.
Pro Tip #2: Use a mockup to think in terms of volume, not just linear dimensions.
It can be challenging to look at a list of dimensions and to picture how big a light fixture will actually be in person. A mockup may sound simplistic, but it's an excellent way to help visualize what the pendants will look like in your kitchen and whether the size will be right.
To create a mockup, make a model of the pendants out of material you have on hand. Cardboard, paper, or even balloons all work well. Then, hang them over your kitchen island.
Stand back and see what you think. Is the scale right? You'll often know immediately if you're on the right track or if something in a different size or shape would be better.
Don't be afraid of large pendants. In the right space, they can be stunning, and a mockup is a great way to fine-tune your vision.
Here are a few of our favorite pendants that run the spectrum from large to small:
Bold in scale at nearly 20" wide, this two-tone oversized pendant is perfect for a generous island in a farmhouse kitchen. Shown here in Galvanized, it also comes in a Polished Antique Nickel and a Rustic Brass finish.
On the opposite side of the size spectrum, this petite 4" wide pendant made from precisely cut metal is a luminous work of art. Pictured in Vintage Platinum, it's also available in eight of Hubbardton's finishes.
This showroom favorite comes in two versatile sizes that can suit many different kitchens: 8" or 10". The graceful band of glass wrapped around the shade adds a hint of artistry to a classic contemporary shape. Try it with a vintage Edison bulb for a warm, amber glow above your island.
Pro Tip #3: When considering dimensions, don't forget height.
In a kitchen with a high ceiling, a tall pendant can be the perfect complement. For example, we love the drama that Tech's Zenith Pendant brings to the contemporary kitchen pictured below. The Zenith pendant's glass shade is 27" long and only 4" wide for an eye-catching slim and sleek profile that's perfect for accentuating a high or vaulted ceiling.
On the other hand, if a pendant is too tall in relation to the height of the ceiling, you might need to install it with just a couple links of chain or one short stem so it doesn't hang too low over the island.
That said, we usually caution against putting yourself in a situation where you're using so little hanging hardware because it can make the pendant feel "stuck" to the ceiling rather than gracefully suspended.
Here are a couple practical tips to help you think through pendant height and find the perfect proportions.
First, as a general rule of thumb, the bottom of a pendant should hang about 30-36" above your countertop.
Use this guideline to think through the heights of the pendants you're considering and how much space will remain between the pendant and the ceiling for the cable, stem, or chain the pendant will hang from.
Second, remember that the height measurement provided by a manufacturer often refers to the height of the pendant alone without any hanging hardware. This means that a 16" tall pendant could end up being closer to 24" tall when you hang it in your kitchen with all the necessary components.
You can usually find the details on the hanging hardware in the manufacturer specs or installation instructions. Use this info to estimate the pendant's overall height after installation. Or if you're not sure, contact us. We're always happy to help with the math.
Pro Tip #4: As you choose pendants, coordinate with your builder and electrician.
This is especially important for a couple of reasons. First, you want to make sure your builder and electrician know what you're envisioning so they can plan where they'll need to run wires and install the electrical boxes. This can save you the headache (and expense!) of making changes after the electrical has already been "roughed in."
Second, you also want to make sure you're aware of any technical details that could affect the type or number of pendants you can use in your kitchen. Consider this specific example: sometimes in order to evenly space pendants over an island, an electrician may need to use a shallower electrical box (a "pancake box") to work around a beam or other obstruction in the ceiling. But not all pendants can use those shallower electrical boxes, so it would be important to know about that limitation before you set your heart on a particular pendant.
More Gorgeous Pendants...
At the beginning of this post, we mentioned the thousands of pendant options that exist and we've shared a few of our favorites. But we can't resist sharing a few more! Remember that all of the pendants we've featured in this post are on display in our Waltham showroom if you'd like to see them in person.
Featuring a white glass inner diffuser surrounded by hand-blown clear or smoke glass, this mini pendant gives you the best of both worlds. The white glass softens the brightness from the light bulb and the clear glass exudes clean, contemporary chic.
In this pendant, thick textured glass is captured by metal bands finished in Mottled Silver. We love the rustic yet artistic effect of the warm light from the Edison bulb filtering through the glass shade.
A pendant where glass truly has a starring role, Audra's fluid shape looks different from every angle. For a pop of color, choose the Surf Green (shown here) or the Steel Blue. For a more neutral palette, choose the White, Clear, or Smoke. Regardless of the glass you select, these pendants are sure to be a conversation starter.
Finished with Visual Comfort's characteristic attention to quality and detail, the Robinson is an instant classic. Shown here in Polished Nickel and Seeded Glass, this pendant comes in three sizes, three finishes, and three glass options for myriad choices.
Still looking for the perfect pendant? Or maybe you have lingering questions about how best to light your kitchen island? Please don't hesitate to contact us! We'd be more than happy to help.